The Mysterious Domination of Food Contaminants and Adulterants in Bangladesh
Faculty of Pharmacy, Bangladesh
Submission: November 02, 2018; Published: January 22, 2019
*Corresponding author: Ak Mohiuddin, Faculty of Pharmacy, Bangladesh
How to cite this article: Ak Mohiuddin. The Mysterious Domination of Food Contaminants and Adulterants in Bangladesh. Int J Environ Sci Nat Res. 2019; 16(3): 555941. DOI:10.19080/IJESNR.2019.16.555941
Food adulteration and contamination are as old as the civilization itself. It is the consequence of the development of civilization, over utilization of nature, industrialization and in fact a price for the progress. It is highly prominent in Urban areas of Bangladesh. It is the consequence of commercialism of business people who are doing this knowingly to maximize profit. People with higher educational background show higher degree of awareness of how the quality of food should be maintained. A lack of confidence on the functions of government regulatory agency in testing the food standard is also reflected in the study. I general, safe food means that there will be no danger from harmful elements such as pathogenic microorganisms, naturally occurring toxins and other potentially harmful chemicals which appear to be deliberately added to food products in the country. The economic development of this country rarely reveals the basic literacy and consciousness of mass people. Necessary steps are to be taken to protect the environment for our own existence.
Keywords: Adulteration; Carcinogen; Chemical Intoxication; Food Poisoning; Health Hazard; Liver and Kidney Dysfunction
Purpose of the study
Brief review of chemical induced food contamination, their consequences and control. Healthcare providers/Policy makers have a major role play to concerned field.
Materials and methods: Comprehensive literature search followed by consulting healthcare professionals about adulteration and food contamination. Hospital, clinic, newspaper journalists, NGO workers were interviewed and asked help for necessary books, journal, newsletters. A few western magazine and newspapers also observed to get necessary concern. Projections were based on various types of adulteration in food served/sold to general people from variety of sources.
Findings: Both general people and the old system, are responsible for this unlivable condition of Bangladesh. Population is not the sole for this instance. A sense of poor rules and regulation is always found everywhere. Negligence is becoming a wide spread disease contaminating illiterate to well educated, all kind of people.
Research limitations: Many articles and documents found in concerned area of research, but the scope of this research is on its focus point chemical induced food adulteration in Bangladesh. Still the most important aspect is covered, but fact is less amount of recent data obtained in few areas.
Practical implication: The language of this article is too simple to understand by people with simple scientific literacy. Pharmacists, doctors, nurses, hospital authorities, public representatives, policy makers and regulatory authorities along with general people have to acquire much from this article.
Social implication: Any article or research is based on the think doing good for mankind, at least going ahead from the present situation, overcoming problems and measures. Bangladesh has recently passed from the list of LDC country with massive economic development. The article should create a guideline for the future policy makers of both government and other sectors to review the alarming situation of chemical induced food contaminants in Bangladesh.
Contamination is the presence of an unwanted substance where it should not be or at concentrations above recommended. Pollution is contamination that results in adverse biological effects to resident communities. Food contaminants and adulterants gave a new dimension in city life, together rest of the country. Rural people are less exposed to adulteration than urban people because of busy life, arrangement of food/spice item are mostly obtained from nearby grocery stores, chain shops and nearby open markets. Recent media reports on the malpractice in the food sector has revealed horrifying scenario leading to massive public outcry. Although there is no official statistics on food borne illness, it is perceived to be a major problem in urban areas of Bangladesh. Contaminated food, filthy and unhygienic environment of urban cities result in health hazard which may even cause deaths. The healthcare providers/policy makers’role in environmental health is related primarily to being alert to the conditions prevailing in the community and of working with others to adequately control any of the attendant hazards.
Gross outcomes of chemical contamination
Food remains a significant vehicle of disease organisms. Foodborne disease more commonly but often incorrectly called “food poisoning,” is grossly underreported. In most instances the illness produced by contaminated food is mild and of short duration, but more severe outbreaks (such as hepatitis A, most commonly seen in public restaurants) can occur. Epidemics of food-borne disease are dramatic and sudden, and most people become sick within 6 to 24 hours after consuming the contaminated foodstuffs. The epidemic pattern of food-borne disease presents differently from the gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) induced by intestinal enteroviruses. The safety laws and regulations of Bangladesh are as given in Table 1. WHO published - chemical exposure to toxic level is suspected to be involved in causing
b) Cardiovascular disease
c) Kidney, liver dysfunction Hormonal Imbalance
d) Premature birth
e) Suppression of Immune system
f) Impaired development of nervous system
g) Mental health problems and
h) Learning disabilities/Cognitive dysfunction
Laboratories for food analysis
a) Public Health Laboratory (IPH)
b) BSTI (Ministry of Industries)
c) Food testing Laboratory (Ministry of Food & Disaster management)
d) Food testing Laboratory (Dhaka City Corporation)
e) Institute of Food Radiation Biology, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission
f) Institute of Food Science Technology, BCSIR
g) Institute of Nutrition & Food Science, University of Dhaka
Results and Discussion
Food adulteration is the most notorious enemy of mankind. Civilization has its own drawback that even causing destruction of itself. Very few people raised voice on this but crippled by the facts of commercialism. The scope of this article is limited to chemical food contaminants and adulterants. A few discussions based on real life experience and recent studies or reports from various journals and news articles are summarized here.
Dhaka city, among huge amount of solid wastes per day from industrial discharge, fertilizers, fossil fuels, sewage sludge and municipality wastes and they are the major sources of heavy metals in soils and subsequent uptake by crops, vegetables and other food items causing serious health hazards to human beings. A significant transfer of heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc, molybdenum and vanadium took place from soils to vegetables (spinach, tomato and cauliflower) grown in industrially polluted soils of Konabari at Gazipur and Keraniganj in Dhaka Rafiqul . In the absence of effluent treatment plants (ETP), the factory wastes are drained out at will into the farmlands, and ultimately contaminate the farm produce. In our country we have allowed things like pollution and food contamination to run riot. Till now, no agency, either under the health ministry or the ministry of science and technology or the ministry of industries, has conducted any examination of the pesticide- residue levels or toxic chemicals in the foodstuff being marketed Asadullah . Apart from these, the slum areas are both populated and are in greatest risk of notorious pathogen found both in food sample and supplied water (Table 2). Vegetable and fruit samples collected from around Savar, Dhamrai and Tongi show the presence of textile dyes, which, in the short-term, will cause diarrhea, food poisoning and gastrointestinal problems, but in the long-term toxic materials will accumulate in the body with serious health implications Asadullah . According to Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA), it can currently supply 75% of water demand, out of which 85% is from groundwater sources (Deep Tube wells). The presence of toxic metal lead in Elephant road, Dhaka. University, Jatrabari, and Demra area and toxic Penta Chloro Phenol (PCP) and existing pathogenic bacterial load in the WASA supplied drinking water from different areas of Dhaka city were found to be unsuitable for human consumption (Table 3).
Arsenic issue of drinking water
Twenty million people in Bangladesh are still drinking water contaminated with arsenic, two decades after the potentially deadly toxin was discovered in the supply. The Bangladesh government is failing to adequately respond to naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water across large areas of rural Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Approximately 20 years after initially coming to international attention, an estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh - mostly rural poor - still drink water contaminated over the national standard. Bangladesh’s health system largely ignores the impact of exposure to arsenic on people’s health. An estimated 43,000 people die each year from arsenic-related illness in Bangladesh, according to one study. The government identifies people with arsenic-related illnesses primarily via skin lesions, although the vast majority of those with arsenic-related illnesses don’t develop them. Those exposed are at significant risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease as a result, but many receive no health care at all Human Rights Watch .
About the proportion of adulterated food items in the market varied between 70% to 90%. Nearly 80% food items in the market were found adulterated in a random survey by public health laboratory of Dhaka City Corporation in 2004. According to the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease & Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B), there is approximately 150 food items in the country. A study by the Institute of Public Health (IPH) revealed that more than 50% of the food samples they tested were adulterated. Textile dyes, which are highly injurious to health, are being randomly used to color many types of food The Independent . Clay powder is mixed with the mixture of turmeric powder and cold toxic yellow dye to make it yellow. Water and salt are well mixed with these species to increase the weight. Mangoes, watermelon, litchi, watermelon, pineapple, papaya and bananas are artificially ripened using a carcinogenic chemical called ethylene oxide (Table 4). In bananas, another chemical called calcium carbide is used that becomes a spray Acetile-gas to generate heat. Milk in rural areas is usually adulterated with dirty water, which can cause hepatitis. People have now come to know about a new milk adulteration technique that uses a thickening agent, sorbitol, and detergent.
Dalda vegetable fat used in cooking is an example of a worst case false. “Our stomach temperature is 37 degrees Celsius and the melting point is 54 degrees Celsius Dalda. So, there is no way that Dalda can be absorbed by the body Aasha . Most sweetened condensed milk products sold in the market actually contains palm oil which is used in substitute for cow’s milk and therefore most sweetened condensed milks out there do not contain milk at all Qyshalini . Fish is considered to be an essential protein for people of all ages. Many fish sellers spray fish with formalin in an indiscriminate manner, it makes the fish or fruits stiff and keeps them looking fresh for longer (Table 5). Undoubtedly human health is now under the possession of formalin, in our country about 400 tons formalin is being imported which are goes to human stomach, creates deadly mistreats on long term exposure (Table 6), even though for laboratory or research purposes 100 tons of Formalin is quite enough, 80% of the imported formalin being added to food only for business purposes. Three-fourths of the marketed vegetables, fruits, and fish contain pesticides and formalin residues. The consumption of such foods might lead to serious diseases Zubair .
Ironically even food color is being adulterated. Substandard food color is finding its way into many types of food. This includes the reddish jelapi, and the saffron beguni, peaju or alur chop. Candy, chips, ice cream, chewing gum and even biryani may contain large amounts of poor-quality food color. Cooking oil that is so commonly used to deep fry items should only be used once but many food vendors and restaurants recycle burnt oil. Once the oil is used for cooking, it becomes oxidized. The more the oil is used, the more pre-oxide is created which is really harmful for the body. This gets more poisonous with continued usage. In 2017, police seized around 3,000 eggs suspected to be artificial during a raid in Patiya upazila, Chittagong. They also arrested two men – an egg shop owner and an egg supplier – suspected to be involved in the trade and marketing of fake eggs Ashif . Doubt also pointed in rice also. The term ‘plastic rice’ was coined by the online media around 2010, when China reported its use for adulteration of a premium rice called Wuchang, which is known for its aroma The New Indian Express .
The Institute of Public Health (IPH) in Dhaka and the World Health Organization (WHO) in their joint study on food adulteration in 1994 tested 52 street vendors and found that all of their food samples were contaminated with different types of pathogenic microorganisms. They also conducted another study in 2003 in Dhaka city and found that 96% of sweetmeats, 24% of biscuits, 54% of breads and 59% of ice creams (Table 7) were extensively adulterated Rahman . Incidences like chemical additives use to heighten color, modify flavor and deter spoilage and even transform apple scraps, glucose and coal tar into a strawberry jam is very common (Editorial, Bangladesh Medical Journal, Khulna, 2013). Consumption of adulterated food items may cause asthma, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis, skin infections, allergic reactions, diarrhea, hematuria, circulatory failure, numbness, dizziness, kidney failure, stomach cancer, liver cancer, nervous disorders and many other diseases (Table 8). After consumption of adulterated food items, thousands of people are becoming sick. Children are the worst victims. About three million people suffered from diarrhea during 2005-2009 and about 15% of children died in 2011 as reported by the Directorate General of Health Services Nath . The long-term effects are also very severe especially the incidence of renal failure, liver damage and cancer which are increasing alarmingly in Bangladesh. Heavy metals, such as lead, chromium and arsenic accumulate in the body that might cause kidney and liver damage and develop abnormality among children. Indiscriminate and irrational use of antibiotics in poultry without following withdrawal period may result in unexpected residues in animal food and could cause serious health hazards to consumers. Research reports on antibiotic residues in broiler meat and liver from different farms and local markets for the presence of residues of ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, oxytetracycline, doxycycline and amoxicilin antibiotics revealed significant level of exposure of antibiotic residues. There’s a greater chance of declining immunological responses and can detrimentally affect intestinal microbiota in susceptible individual. According to Prof. Muniruddin Ahmed (Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Dhaka University) Cooking cannot destroy antibiotic residues, which made them resistant to antibiotic treatment Emran .
Most edible oil adulterated
Most of the soybean oils, mustard oil and ghee sold to consumers lack standard specification of cooking oils. The recent study by the government found that standard edible oil properties like moisture content, iodine, saponification and free fatty acid were largely missing from the cooking oils sold in the country. The Institute of Public Health (IPH), during a study done between July 2016 and June 2017, found that only three per cent of soybean oils, both branded and otherwise, sold to consumers meet the standards. It also found that ghee and mustard oil invariably failed to meet the standards. The study reports released recently says that the shocking findings resulted from testing 96 samples of cooking oils. On chemical analysis all the branded and unpacked samples of mustard oil, soybean oil and ghee were found to be lacking the standard characteristics of cooking oil. IPH found unacceptable level of moisture content and free fatty acid in mustard oils sold in the kitchen markets. It also found unacceptable levels of moisture content in branded and non-branded soybean oils, but saponification value was lower than the set standards. In ghee, moisture and free fatty acid contents were above the acceptable levels while saponification value was below the standard level. The study found vitamin ‘A’ in nine brands of soybean oil but only three of the brands were permitted value compliant. Consumers Association Bangladesh stated that the marketing companies were cheating consumers taking advantage of their ignorance about the properties needed in cooking oil Daily Industry .
The government has decided to ban the production, marketing and import of energy drinks under the guise of carbonated beverages with immediate effect. The Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) at a council meeting on also resolved to take legal action against the companies that have been advertising their products as energy drinks after having them listed as carbonated beverages with BSTI. The move came after the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) wrote to BSTI to say the production of energy drinks in the name of carbonated beverages should not be allowed, as the ingredients of the two are significantly different. In 2012, a Department of Narcotics Control test conducted on energy drinks from several local and foreign companies had found excessive amount of artificial caffeine, Viagra (sildenafil citrate), beer and alcohol as ingredients. The manufacture and advertising of energy drinks under a license for carbonated beverage is fraud, punishable under several laws including the BSTI Act and the Food Safety Act. Initially, the government will write to the companies to instruct them to discontinue their production and marketing of energy drinks. Punitive actions will follow if they do not comply, said the official. The government will also amend the import policy in order to blacklist the foreign energy drinks with harmful ingredients Asif .
Safety issues of bottled water
So-called mineral water supplied to houses and offices in jars are not tested. In most cases, the water is filled in the jars right away from the tap and sometimes in the empty bottles of some of the well-known mineral bottle brands Joynul . The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) has of late made a sensational revelation regarding the quality of water different companies supply for drinking in and around Dhaka. According to the findings of the government study, ‘coliform bacteria’ (pathogens from faeces of humans and animals) has been found in 97% of so-called filtered water supplied in jars to households, shops and offices in the capital city of Bangladesh. A team of BARC researchers determined the ‘horrifying’ data while studying the level of minerals in jars and bottled water marketed in Dhaka city. The researchers sampled 250 jars from across the city’s Farmgate, Karwan Bazar, Elephant Road, New Market, Chawk Bazar, Sadarghat, Keraniganj, Jatrabari, Motijheel, Basabo, Malibagh, Rampura, Mohakhali, Gulshan, Banani, Uttara, Airport, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Gabtoli, and on the city’s outskirts at Aminbazar, Savar and Ashulia. The level of ‘coliform bacteria’ in the samples collected from Elephant Road, Chawk Bazar, Basabo, Gulshan and Banani areas was found significantly high in the research Sarwar , Zubair . A few months ago, a mobile court busted six fake mineral water plants in Bosila area of Dhaka’s Mohammadpur and sentenced six staffers to different terms of jail. The team also seized 2000 jars of water and destroyed those later Online Report .
Food adulteration during Ramadan
The crime of those selling adulterated and unhygienic food items is very serious and strict action needs to be taken as per law against such guilty persons. According to media reports some 600 field-level sanitary inspectors are working across the country to ensure food safety for all during the holy month of Ramadan. This is welcome news but if previous records are anything to go by people should not get their hopes up too high. Even more unfortunate is the fact that this nefarious practice increases exponentially during the month of Ramadan. It was found that coloring agents are used in spices, sauces, juices, lentils and oils. Formalin and carbide used in fish, fruit, meat and milk Ahamed . The shopkeepers and the merchants many of them with a pious fade try to earn a large amount of profit by this unethical practice, and so they play with the life and health of the people. They mix dangerous things in the daily eatables. The holy Prophet (PBUH) has disowned those who indulge in this immoral business. He said the adulterator is not one of us.
Sub-standard vermicelli (shemai) and cow fattening ahead of eid
Adulterated vermicelli flooded different markets in the capital ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the biggest religious festivals of the Muslims, posing a serious threat to public health. A section of unscrupulous businessmen is busy in manufacturing sub-standard vermicelli in the port city ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr as the food item has a high demand in the day. According to local sources, some of the factories are using unrefined palm oil and animal fat to produce Laccha vermicelli while hazardous chemicals and toxic color were also used to make the food items. Bangla vermicelli is produced using flour and water and Laccha is produced with oil, flour sugar and water. Most cases, the vermicelli was being dried in unhygienic condition in the rooftop of the factories. Seeking anonymity, a seasonal vermicelli maker said a section of businessmen in the city bought the adulterated vermicelli and sell them tagging labels of renowned companies. BSTI personnel left a comment as Bangla vermicelli is used to make by seasonal factory for a certain time, it is not mandatory to take license from BSTI, however, the factory should take health and hygienic certificate issued by the Sanitary Inspector Dhaka Tribune, The Independent 2016, New Age 2017, Daily 2018.
With Eid-ul-Azha around the corner, the Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) has recently urged the government to monitor how cattle is being reared and fattened in the farms in the country. The Daily Star 2018. Knowingly causing such damage to public health in order to hike up the price of cows is a crime and must be dealt with swiftly. The use of antibiotics, growth hormones, harmful chemicals, and steroids is prohibited by the Animal Feed Act 2010. Violators may be faced with a year in prison, a Tk 50,000 fine, or both. A large number of farmers involved in bull fattening just before 3 or 4 months of Eid-Ul-Azha (Muslim festival), when they sell the animals with profitable price. Visiting different villages in Bera, Santhia and Ataikula upazilas of Pabna, and Shahjadpur and Baghabari areas in Sirajganj, these correspondents found that almost every household was using steroids, antibiotics and other chemicals for months in blatant violation of law. Everyone - from cattle farm owners to landless farmers- wanted to take full advantage of this. These cattle-fattening drugs are also widely used in Chuadanga, Jhenidah, Nilphamari, Barisal, Faridpur, Manikganj and some other districts. Consumption of meat of these animals poses serious health risks for humans, according to experts The Daily Star 2014. The changes to the cow caused by these injections are not merely cosmetic – severe health damage is done to humans by the consumption of this meat. While most traders would still claim that the fattening supplements were not harmful, there is reason to believe these chemicals may cause cancer, kidney disease, and infertility in women Dhaka Tribune 2016.
Penalty imposed on famous eateries
Isn’t it surprising that like many occasional drives against various crimes, the fight against unsafe food, too, has assumed the character of a seasonal activity? While this should have been a continuous and unrelenting activity round the year across the country, sporadic and infrequent moves here and there, leave no permanent impact on the sellers and producers of spurious food items of all varieties. Newspaper reports say that the drive against food adulteration is currently on in the capital, launched last week. The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), the state watchdog to regulate the sector is reportedly monitoring the capital’s food markets under the supervision of an executive magistrate. One has reasons to question the rationale behind the drive in the capital alone, that too with just one magistrate. The effectiveness of the drive is bound to cause nothing more than a ripple with mobile courts punishing a few sweetmeat shops, restaurants and if at all, some kitchen market sellers. The fact that such drives, sporadic and half-hearted, failed to bring any discipline in the country’s food market cannot be disputed. However, famous eateries/food chains are not devoid of these cases of adulteration and substandard food staffs. Penalty imposed on these famous shops/food chain should at least give an idea to general people that paying high price is not always an indicator of good quality. Even a few of them were penalize more than once or twice for the same reason but substandard food serves never ended (Table 9). For a better view references regards are attached in this table with date published [19-25].
Government officials monitoring food markets in capital Dhaka fined businesses millions of BDT only after finding that their food items contained ingredients harmful to human health. Inadequate monitoring of food markets may have exposed people’s health to serious hazards from consumption of substandard and adulterated foods. In the absence of corrective measures, punishing the offenders-at times by way of hefty monetary penalties-is not an appropriate method of dealing with the problem. A properly institutionalized mechanism with sufficient manpower and regular monitoring round the year can only bring things to some semblance of order. In this regard, it is important that the BSFA and other agencies such as the BSTI and the city corporations which also run such drives maintain a well-coordinated plan of action. It is also important that punitive actions should be backed by actions to improve the quality and standard of food of all varieties. To monitor the situation, inspection and sudden raids are welcome, but it must not be forgotten that inspection is just one of the many ways to rein in food adulteration. Bangladesh Food Safety Authority chairman said he would not be able to do much to help the situation for he did not have enough manpower [26-33].
While contamination of food may be due to negligence, deliberate adulteration by toxic chemicals or radioactive materials for long shelf life of products and increasing the volume in size and weight-among the many crooked methodsis so rampant that it is difficult to find anyone who does not encounter an unpleasant moment of food-related illness at least once a year. Taking care of the situation thus calls for a whole package of initiatives. In advanced countries this involves producing, handling, storing and preparing foods in such a way as to prevent infection and contamination in the entire chain. However, in situations prevailing in this country, it is not merely about maintaining a clean chain but putting in strong deterrents so that criminality in the business could be stopped. Sources of harmful stuffs must be plugged, if necessary, by way of ban on imports or local production. Strong advocacy on the detrimental effects of consumption should be routinely done. At the same time, training on safe and scientific methods of preservation of food products should also be a high priority in an attempt to curb adulteration. Adulteration and contaminant control are a never ending, on the other hand a continuous process. It will increase with time as the civilization go ahead. Pharmacists should be aware of the local occupations, companies, and factories and to be cognizant of the initial symptoms of disease. Again, pharmacists should become acquainted with the local community and to adapt the principles of health and medical care to the particular situations encountered. The pharmacist’s continuing education requirements should include watching the local pattern of society and its diseases and changing the emphasis toward evolving disease patterns and their control. Government and regulatory authorities are to play strong role in controlling food contaminants and adulteration.
With constant change to the physical, biological, cultural, social, and economic environment, both pharmacists and citizens should cultivate an informed awareness of these changes, and health providers should adapt their methods of health education, disease prevention, and disease control to the changes in each community. This is especially true food daily consumed, which require concerted community action for their control, but providers may play a much more fundamental and personal role in controlling food-borne diseases; often, the first indication of an outbreak of food-borne disease is time-limited, with an unusually large number of people seeking relief from health hazards. The necessary role in environmental health is related primarily to being alert to the conditions prevailing in the community and of working with others to adequately control any of the attendant hazards.
Compliance with the ethical issues
a) Ethics approval and consent to participate
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d) Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests
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f) Authors’ contributions
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